Nuclear talks with Iran were extended yet again as negotiators continued to work toward a final deal.
It was announced Tuesday that the current interim nuclear arrangement with Iran had been extended through July 10 to allow negotiators representing the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom — plus Germany to work through outstanding issues. As of press time, Secretary of State John Kerry was slated to remain in Vienna for the continuation of the talks.
Marie Harf, senior adviser for strategic communications at the State Department, said via Twitter that those involved are more concerned about the quality of a deal “than about the clock.”
“We are taking these negotiations day to day,” she tweeted. “We’ve made substantial progress in every area, but this work is highly technical [and] high stakes for all of the countries involved.”
It’s unclear if there has been any compromise on the red lines recently outlined by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of Iran. He demanded a quick easing of sanctions, rejected inspections of military sites and ruled out the possibility of a multiyear freeze on sensitive nuclear work.
The ayatollah’s red lines are at odds with the ones outlined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that have proven influential in Congress. The organization wants “anytime and anywhere” nuclear inspections, which would include Iranian military sites, a decades-long block on “Iran’s nuclear weapons quest” and the dismantling of existing Iranian nuclear infrastructure and sanctions relief to be predicated on “ongoing verification” of Iranian compliance.
State Department spokesman John Kirby toed the party line at a news briefing Monday, saying, “As the president said last week and as the secretary repeated himself yesterday, we will only accept a deal that effectively closes off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, and it will have to be a deal that can stand up to the scrutiny of not just our experts, but experts around the world.”
Federica Mogherini, European Union foreign policy chief, maintained that the missed dates were not “deadlines” but extensions.
“We are continuing to negotiate for the next couple of days. This does not mean we are extending our deadlines,” said Mogherini, according to the Reuters news agency. Mogherini added that the interpretation of the nuclear talks deadlines was “flexible.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the chief Iranian diplomat present at the talks, also affirmed that deadlines were lessimportant than a good deal, leading a press corps member to query Kirby: At what point does the United States walk away?
“I just don’t think we’re in a position right now where we can answer that question,” Kirby said. “We’re not unmindful of deadlines that had been set before. But what [Kerry] is really focused on more than anything is getting or making sure that if we get a deal, it’s a good deal, it’s the right deal.”
Semantics aside, if a deal is delivered to Congress past July 9, it automatically goes into a 60-day review period. During that time, no congressionally imposed sanctions on Iran will be lifted.
Regardless of the outcome of the extended talks, a coalition of pro-Israel groups, mostly aligned with conservative causes, have scheduled a Stop Iran Now rally for July 22 in New York’s Times Square. Confirmed speakers for the rally include James Woolsey, former director of the CIA; Alan Dershowitz, legal scholar; Allen West, former congressman from Florida; and Paul Vallely, a former Army major general.
Co-sponsors include the Jewish Rapid Response Coalition, Christians United for Israel, the Jewish National Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization of America.
ZOA President Morton A. Klein declined to predict how many participants are expected at the rally but hopes the number will be in the thousands. According to the event website, the New York City Police Department is preparing for 20,000 people.
“This is not a bad deal. This is a catastrophe,” said Klein. “This supplies nuclear weapons to the Adolf Hitler of the Middle East, Khamenei.”
ZOA supporters, he said, are pressing every member of the House and Senate not only to vote against a potential deal with Iran, but also to support Israel should the Jewish state decide to take military action against Iran.
Added Klein, “What President [Barack] Obama is doing is an absolute disaster, and I have to think that he is not interested in Israel or in Israel’s survival.”
This article was published by the Baltimore Jewish Times and may be found here.